Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Still Mostly Good

I am a former teacher, and I keep in close touch with many of my past students.  Yesterday, after the news broke of the school shooting in Connecticut, I received an email from a girl, now in the tenth grade. 

Hi Miss Klein how are you? I hope everything is ok. For me everything was ok until I came across a VERY SAD STORY - when you read it, tears will come and your heart will be broken into so many parts that it would be hard to find the parts to make it whole again. Plz go to this link "Elementary school massacre at Connecticut school" send me an email back and tell me what kind of environment are we living in.  It looks like the more we try to help and better the environment it get worst in some other way Description: https://mail.google.com/mail/e/33DDescription: https://mail.google.com/mail/e/344Description: https://mail.google.com/mail/e/320

It took me a while to think about what to write back to her.  I don’t have kids.  I sat at a coffee shop in my neighborhood this morning, and listened as mothers gathered in groups around me for their weekly coffee dates, discussing gun control, and security at their own kids’ schools, and ‘communities like this one’ where people expected the best, and felt safe each day. 

My student is from a community where parents brace for the worse, and where it isn’t considered an affront to their expectations to walk through metal detectors on the way to first grade.  Yet her inquiry echoed those being made at the tables around me.  Her questions were the same ones being asked by the nation at large. 

I thought about what I would want my students to take away from this tragedy.  Anger?  Yes, I suppose, if it leads to action in a productive way.  Fear?  Okay, but only so far as it leads to caution.   Empathy?  Of course, it allows us to feel connected as a people, to develop compassion, to remember that we are not alone.  It’s hard to find a clear lesson or message to takeaway when you talk to anyone about something like this.  What’s the sense in making sense out of something so senseless?

But there was a quote circulating that seemed to be relevant in this moment.  So I relied on that.


I am also feeling very sad about this story - it is a tragedy and I can't imagine how those families are feeling. 

Here is a good quote that I like from Mr. Rogers: When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers--so many caring people in this world.

That is true here too - there was one person doing something very terrible, but there were hundreds of people doing things that were good - trying to protect each other and comfort each other and help each other.  Even though the bad here is so big, and the good is so hard to see, it's important to remember that we live in a world where there is much, much more good than there is bad.

I miss you, and hope you are doing well.

Ms. Klein

We live in a world that is scary, but also one that is beautiful.  A world that is filled with small acts of kindness, and with daily routines of caring and of comfort.  They don’t make the news, but they are there, and they could be seen yesterday. 

One person wreaked havoc on a community, and what was exposed in the wake of the tragedy were not the fault lines in the community, not the neglect or the lack of caution.  What the nation saw on tv was people holding one another up.  Teachers and principals and counselors who raced towards a problem rather than away from it, and who put the safety of others on par with their own.  We saw families who arrived en masse immediately following the tragedy, and we saw a law enforcement effort that was immediate and comprehensive.

For those immediately impacted by this, there are no words, no lessons, no answers that can be given.  But for the rest of the nation, who watches in shock, it is worth noting that amidst the terrible events of the day – the actions of one person who in several minutes changed the world for so many – there were many more hours of actions that can inspire hope, and reassure us of our own humanity.  Yes, these things are too common now, and yes, this violated all of our sense of what was possible.  But as everyone continues to get up in the morning and carry on with their lives, I would remind my students that while no one can promise absolute safety, or the absence of evil, they can be assured that they are surrounded mostly by good.


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  2. Hello Ms. Klein,

    I came across your blog as I was researching some statistics about I.S. 217. I went to this middle school when I was a child. I'm currently a junior studying Nutrition and Dietetics at NYU. I'm doing a grant proposal on a Nutrition program in a middle school and I thought I should use this one as a possible example. It won't actually be done but I figured it would be fun to see what kind of impact we (nutrition students) could make in a school like I.S. 217. I distinctly remember one of my teachers, Ms. May. I don't know if you knew her. Anyway, I'm just writing to say thank you on behalf of the students at that school. From reading a few entries from your blog I can tell that you were a concerned teacher. Thank you :)

    Solaire Spellen